Julio Escobar speaks during a Wednesday prayer service for 71-year-old Edward French, who was killed at Twin Peaks earlier this month. (Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Twin Peaks homicide victim honored by students at prayer service

A 71-year-old photographer shot and killed at San Francisco’s Twin Peaks earlier this month was honored by more than a dozen Catholic high school students at the site of his death last week.

Father Piers Lahey from St. Andrew Catholic Church prayed for the victim, Edward French, at the St. Francis prayer service, ceremonies to honor homicide victims in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties held by the Archdiocese of San Francisco Restorative Justice Ministry.

Lahey spoke about French’s career in photography, TV and commercials, as well as about the importance of supporting French’s family.

“When somebody’s life is taken away, especially by gun violence, all of us feel that outrage, all of us feel that pain,” Lahey said. “Any violent act on someone is a violent act on us all.”

French was fatally shot after being robbed of his camera on July 16. The suspects, a man in his early 20s and a female in her late teens, fled the scene in a gray Honda Accord and have not been arrested.

French was shot at a popular location for photographers, tourists and San Francisco residents, and where two other people were killed last year.

Two Santa Rosa residents, Julio Peraza, 21, and Rene Mora, 19, were shot dead at the lookout on Feb. 14, 2016. Richard Contreras was subsequently arrested on suspicion of the double murder.

Lahey asserted that Twin Peaks must shed its violent past and be reclaimed as an area of hope and peace.

“This place where violence occurred, we are reclaiming as a place of peace,” Lahey said. “This place that causes fear, anger and pain, we are reclaiming as a place of hope and community.”

Lahey sprinkled a candle with Holy Water and asked the French’s family friend to light it. The candle was protected from the wind by the circle of students holding hands.

The teens from California, Nevada and Oregon are participants of Young Neighbors in Action, a program that allows students to experience faith and justice through helping people in need, including seniors and homeless people, said Julio Escobar, director of Restorative Justice Programs that has partnered with Young Neighbors in Action.

Eighty students participated in the program this summer, where they, among other things, made cards for incarcerated people and victims of crimes, Escobar said.

To student Sara Pitz, 18, Wednesday’s prayer service for French brought sadness, but also an uplifting sense of connection, she said.

Nico Enriquez, another participant, said, “I felt like this ceremony purified the place — because it is such a beautiful place — from such a tragedy.”

French’s family members didn’t attend the service, but Escobar said a family friend passed the candle to them.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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